Friday, October 31, 2008
of the College of Liberal Arts introduced President Clinton.
The tone was cordial and serious, by all reports. The local paper went so far as to lead with the story that President Clinton presented a reasoned argument for the election of Barack Obama -- a real contrast to the usual frame of combat taken for granted with everyday casualness by the press.
On the other hand, there are rumors around campus, so far unverified by Senses of Rhetoric, that during her visit to campus to speak at Rec Hall, the day before President Clinton's speech in the same location, Sarah Palin refused an offer to meet University President Graham Spanier on the grounds that he was suspected of being a Democrat. If true, would not that qualify as churlish? Would you be surprised?
these and more photos are at Penn State Public Information
Bill Clinton and Jack Selzer, by AnneMarie Mountz for Penn State Public Information.
Bill Clinton speaking, by Greg Grieco for Penn State Public Information.
Penn State Public Information photo album of Sarah Palin visit.
Today in the Centre Daily Times:
Why this man bites dog story? On Saturday night, after Penn State beat Ohio State in Ohio, there was a riot in State College.Friday, Oct. 31, 2008
By Sara Ganim
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Photo credit: Nabil K. Mark, Centre Daily Times, 30 October 2008.
In Bag News Notes this morning, photos by Alan Chin of Sarah Palin and John McCain in Pennsylvania.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
We have had a progressive income tax system in the United States for a century, with adjustments here or there along the way, and some calls for a flat tax.
Some links on this issue (I'll add a few more to round this out)
Daily Kos, "Let's Put an End to McCain's Lies about Obama's Tax Plan," 29 October 2008.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden are leading in all the polls, but of course anything could happen.
In our mid-state university town, we have had visits this year from Barack Obama (during primary season), Sarah Palin (a photo op earlier in the month, and a rally on campus on Tuesday evening). Bill Clinton will speak on campus tonight.
From Getty Images, here is a campaign rally in Pottsville, Pennsylvania --
The image captures the dismay in the press over the McCain campaign's "I'm a patriot and a war hero and we don't really know much about the loyalties of that other guy." The appeal has worn thin, and though it does apparently appeal strongly to a core of constituents, it seems likely to remind independent voters, given the skepticism of the press frame, of how thin the McCain rhetoric is.
Our local paper this morning frames the story of last night's Sarah Palin rally as a desperate gesture: "The McCain campaign's last-minute dash for Pennsylvania blew into town Tuesday night as running mate Sarah Palin stood in a packed Rec Hall and declared that "this is a close race.""
Another front page story in the CDT is headlined, "Die-Hard Supporters Flock to Palin."
Sarah Palin photo credit, Nabil Mark, Centre Daily Times, 29 October 2008.
See also Bag News Notes, "One Woman in Pennsylvania," 29 October 2008.
ABC News on Palin lies about Obama in Western Pennsylvania.
Obama ad on McCain and winking Palin, at Huffington Post.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Russ Rymer, "The George Wallace We Forgot," New York Times, 24 October 2008.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Harry Truman's campaign for re-election in 1948 appeared to be doomed. The polls and the papers assumed that the Republican candidate, New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey would be elected on November 2.
Truman took to the rails, with his famous whistle-stop campaign of 1948.
I was a small boy in elementary school in Waterford, Connecticut in October 1948 when we were organized into a field trip to our local city, New London to see Harry Truman when his train came through town.
Here is the speech I heard on that October 28, 1948, from the Public Papers of the President, online at the American Presidency Project.
President Harry S. Truman. NEW LONDON, CONNECTICUT. 28 October 1948. (Rear platform, 12:42 p.m.)
Thank you, thank you. Thank you very much. I'm very glad, my friends--very glad to be here in New London this afternoon. New London is world famous. The submarines that were built here were a vital power to the United States Navy during the war. The "Silent Service" never got the publicity that it deserved. But I know that the histories of this war will make it clear how great a part you people who built submarines, and the gallant submarine crews, had in winning the war.
The Coast Guard Academy here in New London and the Naval Base are important parts of our national defense. We intend to keep both the Academy and the Naval Base as strong and as active as possible.
Now, my friends, the real basis of our strength is a strong economy in this country. We are now enjoying a great prosperity, but a number of storm warnings have been hoisted. We are in a boom period that can turn into a bust period unless we are very, very careful. I have repeatedly warned the Congress and the country that we must take strong measures to prevent another depression. The Republican candidate for President says that I shouldn't even mention depression. He says I'm helping the Communists by talking about a depression. Talking about a depression won't help the Communists. What would help them would be to have a depression.
The only thing in the world which can endanger our leadership for peace would be a bust, brought on by failure to stop skyrocketing prices. The Republicans in Congress took the lead in killing price control 2 years ago. I have been urging Congress since then to pass price control laws. And I called the Republican 80th Congress back into special session twice for that very purpose.
The Republican 80th Congress made it perfectly clear that the Republican Party does not believe in doing anything about high prices. They prefer to let things run their course. The Republican candidate for Congress and the Republican candidate for President endorsed the 80th Congress. And he has made it perfectly clear that he does not want to help you in any way.
Now, I know what you are going to do, I think, on election day. I think you're going to make Chester Bowles Governor of Connecticut. I think you're going to make Mrs. Chase Going Woodhouse your representative in Congress again from this district. I think you are going to look after your own interests on election day, and when [p.895] you do that you can't do but one thing: that is to vote for yourselves. Go to the polls and vote the Democratic ticket straight, from top to bottom, and then you'll be on the right track because you will be voting in your own interests--you won't be voting for special interests. And your President then won't be troubled with the housing shortage like a lot of other people are--I'll still be in the White House another 4 years.
It was a beautiful fall day in October, sunny and crisp, and I vividly remember President Truman's zest and geniality, though as a small boy I was hardly familiar with the language of politics.
In an oral history at the Truman Library, Williams J. Bray, "Recollections of the 1948 Campaign" recalls
For the ride through Connecticut we were joined by a large delegation of high officials. The President made rear platform speeches at New London, New Haven, Bridgeport, South Norwalk to large crowds. We then proceeded into New York City, arriving there at 4 p.m.
Governor Dewey came through town the next day, and drew a crowd of 15,000; his train was headed for New York and a big speech he had scheduled there. I may have been in that audience, too, but my memory of it is so unclear that I may just be imagining it -- the tidy little figure of Dewey, a precise, small man with a little mustache. There was a famous cartoon of Dewey as the formal little groom on a wedding cake. The papers, including the New York Times, reported the day as a triumphal acknowledgment of the big win Dewey was everywhere expected to gain the next week. And then he lost.
For an account of the 1948 campaign from a rhetorical perspective, see Steven R. Goldzwig, Truman's Whistle-stop Campaign (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008).
Harry S. Truman text from John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters,The American Presidency Project [online]. Santa Barbara, CA: University of California (hosted), Gerhard Peters (database). Available from World Wide Web: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=13074.
The McCain campaign has launched a second robocall campaign painting Barack Obama as terrorist sympathizer and a potential threat to national security.
Narrated by former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, who identifies himself as "America's first Secretary of Homeland Security," the call suggests Obama would "give traditional civil rights to terrorists and talk unconditionally to dictators and state sponsors of terror."
This is hard for a Pennsylvania citizen to hear. Ridge, who has long been an opportunist pretending to be a principled conservative, has cast real doubt on his integrity as a former cabinet officer.
His call says
Hello, this is Governor Tom Ridge, America's first Secretary of Homeland Security. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC because this week Joe Biden, Barack Obama's running mate, made startling comments that we must take seriously. He reminded us of Sen. Obama's inexperience when he said that America would face an international crisis that Sen. Obama would be unprepared to handle alone. If the Democrats win complete control of government they will want to give traditional civil rights to terrorists and talk unconditionally to dictators and state sponsors of terror. Barack Obama and his Democrat allies lack the experience and judgment to lead America.
Seth Colter Walls, "Second McCain Robocall Paints Obama as Terrorist Sympathizer," Huffington Post, 23 October 2008.
If you can come up with something that would send a telemarketer over the edge, you have really overachieved on the offensiveness front.
See also "McCain Camp Silencing Supporter Who Repudiated Anti-Muslim Smears," Daily Kos, 23 October 2008.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Are those anti-ACORN calls being incited by the Sarah Palin and John McCain accusations of vote fraud and their attempts to link Obama and ACORN?
This new wave of threats underscores John Lewis's warning about violent rhetoric and its links to racist hatred in the 1960s. See "John Lewis Warns McCain: You're 'Sowing the Seeds of Hatred and Division," Huffington Post, 11 October 2008.
We discussed, among other things, the use of humor by presidents or directed at presidents.
John McCain and Barack Obama both appeared as featured speakers at the Alfred E. Smith dinner in New York last week (16 October 2008) to deliver humorous speeches. Both were shown on TV and there are links to their speeches.
There's a story from the LA Times on the McCain speech and presidential humor.
Transcripts here at Kansas City Star.
Here is a YouTube link to the Obama speech.
Here is a YouTube link to the McCain speech.
Full video at YouTube.
See also John M. Murphy, "The Language of the Liberal Consensus: John F. Kennedy, Technical Reason, and the 'New Economics' at Yale University," Quarterly Journal of Speech 90 (2004): 133-162.
John F. Kennedy, "Commencement Address at Yale University," President John F. Kennedy, June 11, 1962
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
October 22 - The Wall Street Journal accuses Fed chair Ben Bernanke of implicitly endorsing Obama for president -- "Bernanke Endorses Obama," Wall Street Journal, 22 October 2008.
October 23 - Scott McClellan endorses Obama. Huffington Post.
There's an interesting column today in the New York Times by Lawrence Lessig about copyright and politics. Lessig is not an anti-copyright fundamentalist. The column makes interesting reading.
The copyright and fair use problem as it affects critical social reflection is addressed on the blogs Bag News Notes and Notes on Politics, Theory, and Photography -- there are links to both on this page; the discussions of fair use are posted in the sidebars of these sites.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
"I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities -- and you have to take that into account -- as well as his substance -- he has both style and substance," Powell said. "He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president."
Story at Huffington Post, "Colin Powell Endorses Obama," 19 October 2008.
Comment by Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker.
Maureen Dowd, "Moved by a Crescent," New York Times, 22 October 2008.
One journalist who detected this modus operandi early was Ron Suskind, who, writing for Esquire in January 2003, induced John DiIulio, the disillusioned chief of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, to tell all. “There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus,” DiIulio said. “What you’ve got is everything — and I mean everything — being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.” . . . Incredibly, McCain has nakedly endorsed the Bush-Rove brand of governance in his own campaign by assembling his personal set of lobbyist cronies and Rove operatives to run it. . . . What he has offered his country this year is an older, crankier, more unsteady version of Bush. Tragically, he can no sooner escape our despised president than he can escape himself.
Frank Rich, "He Just Can't Quit W," New York Times, 19 October 2008.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I was watching the debate on C-SPAN, which, except for cutaways for the moderator's questions, maintained a split screen of two close-ups -- Obama on the left, McCain on the right. The whole debate was very distracting, as McCain, especially when Obama was speaking, seemed to be having trouble containing his emotions -- anger, impatience, shakiness, giddiness. McCain seemed to be seething.
There is a clip showing some of the anger at Daily Kos, along with a discussion of the matter on CNN with David Gergen, here.
Watching the debate in a format that showed close-ups of the alternating speakers produced much less of this effect, though since McCain interrupted and heckled fairly frequently, even that format seemed to reinforce the frame, by now well established for at least a large part of the electorate and the press, that McCain may be erratic and impulsive.
The New York Times ran a feature today with both video and a transcript here.
Angry McCain at Huffington Post, from YouTube.
George Packer at the New Yorker.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
The Palin - McCain attacks that have stimulated such frantic rage at their rallies in the past two weeks have been compared to the tactics of Joe McCarthy, and we have been reminded by some commentators of the moment in the Army-McCarthy hearings when Joseph Welch issued his famous rebuke.
The exchange is in text and audio at AmericanRhetoric.com, which also shows these images, among others, from that moment.
Bob Shrum has compared the McCain-Palin rhetoric with the handbill of John F. Kennedy circulated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, the day he was shot and killed by an assassin.
In today's Times a useful analysis by Frank Rich of the McCain-Palin rhetoric, with further links to recent incidents at their rallies. Rich writes, "The McCain campaign has crossed the line between tough negative campaigning and inciting vigilantism, and each day the mob howls louder."
Frank Rich, "The Terrorist Barack Hussein Obama," New York Times, 12 October 2008.
Rich's column is accompanied by this image by Barry Blitt, which captures some of the many layers of association, menace, and triumphalism of the campaign --
Sarah Palin and the Straight Talk Express came to our little town yesterday.
We did not hear about it until we picked up the Sunday paper on our front porch, and there she was, taking up most of the front page.
Governor Palin and her daughter were on their way from a rally in Johnstown to the University Park airport for a flight to Philadelphia, where Palin dropped the puck to start the game--and was apparently roundly booed by the crowd. Her surprise visit yesterday to the Way Fruit Farm was apparently a big success.
It is not a surprise that a visit from a vice presidential candidate would take over the front page of the Sunday paper -- even though Penn State beat Wisconsin in Madison yesterday evening, 48-7.
It is interesting, just to remind ourselves how thoroughly saturated we are by media practices, how normal it seems to us that a surprise, unnanouced appearance would be so fully covered by a local reporter and photographer. And of course the story captures exactly that double quality -- absolutely carried away by celebrity, absolutely not aware of the levels of staging and back-stage preparation this sort of surprise and its coverage entail, absolutely awed by how normal the candidate seems -- she's one of us!
Sarah Ganim, "AN OCTOBER SURPRISE -- Palin Mingles with Crowd in Unexpected Visit to Way Fruit Farm," Centre Daily Times, 12 October 2008.
(photo credit: CDT/Christopher Weddle; Centre Daily Times, 12 October 2008)
Saturday, October 11, 2008
This is the week that the campaign reached its ugliest -- so far.
Serge Kovaleski, "Alaska Inquiry Concludes Palin Abused Powers," New York Times, 10 October 2008.
Gov. Sarah Palin abused the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to fire her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, an investigation concluded.Elizabeth Bumiller, "McCain Lauds and Attacks Obama on Same Day," New York Times, 10 October 2008.
After a week of trying to portray Senator Barack Obama as a friend of terrorists who would drive the country into bankruptcy, Senator John McCain abruptly changed his tone on Friday and told voters at a town-hall-style meeting that Mr. Obama was “a decent person” and a “family man” and suggested that he would be an acceptable president should he win the White House."Your Abbreviated Pundit Roundup," Daily Kos, 11 October 2008.
But moments later, Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee, renewed his attacks on Mr. Obama for his association with the 1960s radical William Ayers and told the crowd, “Mr. Obama’s political career was launched in Mr. Ayers’ living room.”
Bob Shrum, "Time to Ask McCain, 'Have You No Sense of Decency Left?'" Huffington Post, 10 October 2008.
A more or less coherent narrative is emerging in press coverage of the Republican campaign, all the more surprising because essentially the same narrative is emerging left and right, and on the "main stream media" as well as in the blogosphere, and in serious journalism as well as comic sendups. Palin is portrayed as superficial, dishonest, and abusive. McCain is portrayed as a geriatric case -- an angry, out of touch, desperate old man who will do anything to seize his last chance at the presidency. This is a narrative that will be difficult for McCain to disentangle himself from, as it seems to account for both the silly (his "wandering" at the debate) and the serious (his and Palin's encouragement of a level of anger and threat that, as one commentator pointed out, would stimulate a Secret Service intervention if said by anyone else). McCain's very inconsistency has emerged as part of a consistent narrative -- and that's hard to shake, since any new tactics fit so easily into the coherent story of his incoherence.
The reality is that in a country facing two wars and a mounting economic crisis, these desparate and despicable appeals aren't working. Obama's lead is mounting, nationally and in the battleground states. But there is a threat here too that is all too real. When I heard someone in a Palin crowd yell out "traitor" as the candidate lashed out at the Democratic nominee, I thought of the full-page ad that appeared in a Dallas newspaper on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963. The headline--"Wanted for Treason"-- was sprawled across a poster-sized photo of President John F. Kennedy.
You don't put country first by running this kind of campaign.
See also Harold Ford, Jr., "Will McCain Do Anything to Win?" Washington Post, 11 October 2008.
Khaled Hosseini, "McCain and Palin Are Playing with Fire," Washington Post, 12 October 2008.
Jonathan Martin, "John Lewis, Invoking George Wallace, Says McCain and Palin 'Playing with Fire,'" Politico, 11 October 2008.
(image Stephen Crowley/The New York Times, 11 October 2008)
Sunday, October 5, 2008
In its broad strokes, McCain's life story is oddly similar to that of the current occupant of the White House. John Sidney McCain III and George Walker Bush both represent the third generation of American dynasties. Both were born into positions of privilege against which they rebelled into mediocrity. Both developed an uncanny social intelligence that allowed them to skate by with a minimum of mental exertion. Both struggled with booze and loutish behavior. At each step, with the aid of their fathers' powerful friends, both failed upward. And both shed their skins as Episcopalian members of the Washington elite to build political careers as self-styled, ranch-inhabiting Westerners who pray to Jesus in their wives' evangelical churches.
(Illustration by Robert Grossman)
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, "socialized medicine" was a scare-phrase that carried considerable weight in heading off attempts to provide federal regulation or support for health insurance. Here we go again.
We are apparently in for a comeback.
The image is from Jim Johnson's (Notes on) Politics, Theory, Photography blog.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
John McCain's campaign has not been about issues, but about the "maverick" tale, and it is not working. The obvious next move is to attack Barack Obama, and that is evidently what the campaign has apparently decided to do. Whether it will work -- or boomerang -- nobody knows, but it will surely be unpleasant.
See Michael D. Shear, "McCain Plans Fiercer Strategy Against Obama," Washington Post, 4 October 2008.
Moments after the House of Representatives approved a bailout package for Wall Street on Friday afternoon, the McCain campaign released a television ad that challenges Obama's honesty and asks, "Who is Barack Obama?" The ad alleges that "Senator Obama voted 94 times for higher taxes. Ninety-four times. He's not truthful on taxes." The charge that Obama voted 94 times for higher taxes has been called misleading by independent fact-checkers, who have noted that the majority of those votes were on nonbinding budget resolutions.
A senior campaign official called the ad "just the beginning" of commercials that will "strike the new tone" in the campaign's final days. The official said the "aggressive tone" will center on the question of "whether this guy is ready to be president."
McCain's only positive commercial, called "Original Mavericks," has largely been taken off the air, according to Evan Tracey of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political ads.
This is a story of greed, negligence, and misguided ideology. It is not going to be fixed by moralizing from John McCain about a few bad apples on Wall Street and at the SEC, but by serious attention to fixing the rules of the financial markets.
"S.E.C.'s 2004Rule Let Banks Pile Up New Risks," New York Times, 4 October 2008.
Stephen Labaton, "The Reckoning -- Agency's '04 Rule Let Banks Pile Up New Debt," New York Times, 2 October 2008.
Friday, October 3, 2008
See also Gail Collins, "Talking in Points," New York Times, 4 October 2008. "Palin did indeed answer each question with poise and self-confidence, reeling off a bunch of talking points that were sometimes totally unrelated to the matter at hand. When she was asked to respond to Joe Biden’s critique of the McCain health care plan, she announced: “I would like to respond about the tax increases,” cheerfully ignoring the fact that tax increases had never been mentioned."
Bob Herbert, "Palin's Alternate Universe," New York Times, 3 October 2008. " --
We’ve lived through nearly two terms of an administration that believed it could create its own reality:
“Deficits don’t matter.” “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.” “Those weapons of mass destruction must be somewhere.”
Now comes Ms. Palin, a smiling, bubbly vice-presidential candidate who travels in an alternate language universe. For Ms. Palin, such things as context, syntax and the proximity of answers to questions have no meaning."
David Letterman on Sarah Palin (YouTube links from Daily Kos) here.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Coming on the day of the debate, and many weeks after his campaign agreed to Ifill as the moderator, when her book project was already well known, and coming after ten days of impulsive and desperate gestures from McCain, the attack on Ifill seems sure to rebound.
Ifill is the moderator and managing editor of "Washington Week in Review" and a senior correspondent on the "Lehrer News Hour" on PBS.
See Jim Ruttenberg's account of the incident at his New York Times blog.